Reasonable definition of ‘hi-res’ music

The last 2 blog posts here are an interesting take on high res.

http://www.realhd-audio.com/?cat=45

.sjb

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His change of mind/position is interesting is it not? Can you imagine the trade publication writers admitting they made a similar mistake around MQA (to say nothing of the average “audiophile”)? In the end, he is one man who was always fighting (and still is) an uphill battle as to what hi res is. The consensus was always a flavor of what I quoted upstream from the RIAA and CEA:

“… lossless audio capable of reproducing the full spectrum of sound from recordings which have been mastered from better than CD quality (48kHz/20-bit or higher)…”

Still, this hobby could use a few more good mavericks such as Dr. Waldrep - guys who know enough about digital, math, engineering, software, and hardware and who on the one had can separate fact from opinion, and on the other have informed opinions that are worth reading…

It is certainly an interesting take on ‘hi-res’ but not one that focuses on MQA as a ‘format’.

Having skimmed through the articles, Waldrep appears specifically to be questioning the merits of hi-res files in general and that of the ‘hi-res’ streaming service offered by Qobuz every bit as much as MQA (which he scarcely mentions) and for that matter DSD as well.

"The entire industry from Sony and Universal Music Group to
Warner Brothers and Neil Young to Qobuz and MQA to Stereophile
and TAS uses the myth of hi-res audio instead of accepting
the realities of the music industry and actual fidelity because they believe that they
can sell more stuff"

I am quite willing to go along with his claim that no one can hear a difference between a sampling rate of 96kHz and 192kHz, because I have listened to test samples with these sampling rates, and I have never personally (in ‘non-blind’ trials) been able to hear a difference. His claim that all ‘hi-res’ is a con is not something with which I feel so comfortable.

If one goes along with Waldrep, then the hi-res streaming services offered by Qobuz (not to mention the hi-res downloads from Qobuz or the likes of HDTracks) are themselves no more than a scam. So anyone who decries MQA infavour of the wonderful hi-res alternative offered by Qobuz may themselves be considered to be deluded if they think that they are receiving a genuine hi-res service.

Waldrup is postulating that ‘hi-res’ across the board is a con and that all we need for music is the CD and CD quality files. Indeed, he also makes a point that high quality lossy MP3s are virtually indistinguishable from CD quality files, and so perhaps we really shouldn’t be getting caught up too much in the debate around lossless or lossy music files. What really matters is how they sound. Now, that is a point of view with which I can empathise.

I suspect that there are many audio engineers who will not be in agreement with Waldrep, and like most things, I suspect that the answer will lie somewhere in the middle. From a personal perspective, I hold the view that although I have never eulogised about the quality of hi-res files (including those that are MQA encoded), I do personally feel that there are subtle benefits to be had from the availability of hi-res music files (standard or MQA encoded) that can translate into a sense of listening ease and ‘naturalness’. However, I fully appreciate that this is simply my subjective personal view.

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I don’t put allot of importance in hi-res, my DAC does a wonderful job with redbook quality.

From all my research extra bit depth and high sample rates allow for lighter filtering and produces less unnatural filter byproducts.

So if it’s captured and mastered in hi-res, might as well release it, why lesson it with further processing.

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You forgot to include “golden ears”. Got to have those wonderful golden ears.

The quote above is the standard audiophile answer when one dares to question whether high resolution audio is worthwhile. Puts the onus on them and makes them feel that it’s their audio system that is at fault. Baloney! I say put the onus on the audiophiles and make them produce results from properly conducted double blind listening tests that prove that non-golden eared humans, you know normal people, can hear a difference. I’m waiting but please take your time and do it right.

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There are plenty of people who hate Dolby. Dolby and what it has done to the video industry is the poster child of why people should be worried about MQA.

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Just to be clear, are you saying that you personally cannot (or can never) hear any difference (of any sort) between redbook quality music files and so called hi-res music files? Alternatively, if you do hear a difference (however small) do you put that down to your own subconscious bias because no audible difference should exist?

No need to carry out a single or double blind test to answer the question. It would just be interesting to hear your own personal point of view.

For what it is worth, I more or less agree with DrTone’s post above. My DACs (Linn Klimax DS/1/Mytek Brooklyn+ and Chord Hugo) also do a wonderful job with redbook quality files, although I do often feel that hi-res files offer a subtly more ‘natural’ sound and one that results in less listening fatigue over time. This is a purely subjective and personal perspective, and has not been arrived at using any form of formal ‘double blind’ testing.

The only relatively lengthy and controlled listening tests I have undertaken demonstrated that I heard no difference whatsoever between sampling frequencies of 96kHz and 192kHz. Not just that I failed to consistently identify the file with the higher sampling rate, but that I failed to hear any difference whatsoever between the files. So, I guess I don’t have those sought after ‘Golden Ears’.

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My Meridian gear tops out at 96k as Meridian consider there is more to resolution than sample rate. Yes, my DSP 5200SEs can unpack MQA at higher rates.

Bob Stuart also stated that 16 bits is a bit low and 24 bit is overkill (my paraphrase)

Meridian are also responsible for much of the development and understanding that has led to the quality available from CD today across the board of manufacturers.
When they created the first audiophile CD player from a Philips machine, they said that they could see this was built by computer engineers and not audio engineers. The rest is history…

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Most of the time when I’m listening to a hi-rez audio file (or something that is labeled as such) any sonic improvement can be attributed to the master used and the bit depth or sample rate.

Here is a very simple test one can do without much trouble. Simply downsample and dither a 24bit/96kHz audio file that you feel sounds better than its CD counterpart to a 16bit/44.1kHz file and listen to that file versus the original 24bit/96kHz file. Report back.

For extra credit convert a 24bit/96kHz audio file to 320K mp3 file. Listen and report back.

A lot of the things that audiophiles claim are only to justify their often overly expensive purchases. I know I used to be in that crowd. Once I realized that I was chasing vapor I stopped spending money on “improvements” that I could not hear. And I also just kept all the expensive cables and wires - they are well made and will last a very long time.

On a side but related note, does it strike anyone other than me strange that just about every time one of the high end audio publications debases themselves and actually reviews one of the many less expensive DACs available, that DAC is declared a giant killer and the reviewer finds that the less expensive DAC compares favorably to much more expensive DACs, except of course for that last degree of “air” or “pacing” or some other meaningless audiophile term. Got to justify that expensive purchase.

To paraphrase Stanley Kubrick, my journey from audiophile to music lover is all about “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Music”

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We all have to find our own level of satisfaction and decide when to jump of the train, stop chasing the dragon.
Your ideas for listening tests are flawed though. It is proven that if you listen to a good system and notice something on a recording that you never noticed before, you will now hear this on the lesser system. Such is the power of the brain, we are not just passive receivers.
So, listen to a great system whenever you can, it will make your normal experience better lol.

What I find with better systems and music files is they are less fatiguing to enjoy over longer periods. They also just sound more natural, real.
The point on where to stop is an individual choice though, but when you do, get out and enjoy great live music if you don’t already. Get to meet the artists and buy the CD’s. Those connections will improve your life more than you know and you will appreciate your Hi Fi even more.

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Excellent post. I agree with just about everything.

Two points:

Yes the power of the brain is very strong which is why perception bias is a real thing, as in a more expensive cable will lead us to “hear” an improvement. Kind of works both ways.

While music on a good audio system will sound better, more real and less fatiguing, the major reason for listening fatigue is dynamic range compression and going from 16 bits to 24 bits does NOT fix that problem.

And while live music is a great way to experience music, it is not always the best way. For example I was once at a concert of some very challenging string music being presented on a very hot summer night in an un-air-conditioned and poorly ventilated space. Trying to concentrate on the music while the sweat was pouring into my eyes was clearly not the best way to experience the music :rofl:

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I totally agree about the dynamic range thing. Over Compressed music is almost unlistenable especialy on a good system. It’s designed for cheap systems.

We can always get a bad live gig for many reasons, it happens, but meeting the artists and connecting with them certainly adds another dimension to their music.
My volunteer work running www.littlerabbitbarn.com has taught me this and it has been a pleasure getting to know many of the artists a little over time.

Actually dynamic range compression first came into use in radio broadcasts, especially those radio stations that were primarily being listened to while in an automobile - wide dynamic range and car radios (long before they became car stereos) did not play well together. Make the quiet passages louder and the loud passages a little quieter and the listeners were less likely to change the station. And in those days the compression was being applied by the radio station and was not part of the original record, other than the normal RIAA compression curve. Now dynamic range compression is on the CD and most of the download files and ironically not on many new LPs (or at least not as much compression).

From these humble begins we now have the full blown and on going Loudness War.

Apparently the way YouTube and iTunes treats the audio means the so called benefits of audio compression are lost and so, hopefully the practise will cease.

Could you please elaborate on what this means since I don’t understand what you are trying to say. Thanks!

As far as I know YouTube treats audio as an annoying afterthought and iTunes isn’t much better.

I believe they use volume normalisation, and as such, making things appear louder with compression losses it’s impact.

Volume normalization is a less intrusive form of dynamic range compression so I now understand your point, which is a very good one.

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Some of its impact, but not all. I suspect that to the ear of most (not all of course) folks who have grown up in the pop music environment of the last 50 years, compressed ‘wall of sound’ music is just normal and what sounds good. To these folks, DR does not sound good or ‘right’…

That is a very sad fact I’m afraid, once they hear good live music that may change. A new point of reference perhaps.

Perhaps, but even if live music is the antidote, when do they get to hear it? Live hearing of acoustic performance, and hands on experience, is becoming less opportune. Music is being taught less and less in schools because it is expensive and does not contribute to the STEM goals of modern education. At my local symphony, I look out at the crowd and see an average age of something around 90. Unfortunately, the trend is in the direction of less familiarity with real and live music, not more…